By Carolyn Shurey
In 2014 the CERES Outreach Team and friends participated in Plastic Free July. In the lead up to 2015 Plastic Free July, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt and changed since last year. Here’s a story about how I approached Plastic Free July in 2014.
In the beginning
To tell the truth, I was a bit ambivalent about participating as I’m pretty keen on doing my best everyday to reduce my plastic consumption and not just focus on a day or a year. I thought I was doing fairly well, particularly as I’d lived in many share houses with passionate environmental activists all keen on keeping waste down. I already buy in bulk or at food co-ops where you fill your own containers, and our waste to landfill is so low our 120 litre curb-side bin is only put out once a month, and even then it’s rarely full.
After my first week of Plastic Free July, I realised I still had a long way to go. There’s still way too much plastic in my life!
Plastic free July is a great test of how you are going and how you can change habits.
So what’s the deal with Plastic Free July?
The challenge is quite simple – Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July.
“Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging, basically anything that’s intended to be used only once and then discarded. If refusing ALL single-use plastic sounds too daunting this time, try the TOP 4 challenge (straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cup lids).
According to some behaviour change gurus it takes at least 21 days of concentrated effort to form/change a habit. Plastic Free July definitely helped me change a few.
I found that by focusing on this issue for a whole month really highlighted how much single-use plastic is still in my life. By the end of the first week I’d identified a few of my regular shopping items that I needed to rethink:
- Mozzarella cheese (comes shrink wrapped in plastic)
- Sheet of plastic that comes with sliced meat from the deli
- 1kg plastic yoghurt container
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Plastic bag that fish or meat is wrapped in before the butcher’s paper
- Wheat bix cereal (plastic bag inside the cardboard box)
- Coconut flour (comes in a zip-lock bag)
Our team often takes challenges like this together and it was great to discuss and share solutions with other team members. There is also a lot of support and information on the Plastic Free July website – http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
Here’s what I tried during Plastic Free July 2014:
- Using my own container when purchasing bocconcini instead of buying the shrink wrapped mozzarella
- Using my own containers when purchasing deli items such as meat and fresh sliced bread
- Buying 500g glass jars of organic yoghurt (I couldn’t find 1kg glass jars)
- Going shampoo free: I now use Bi-carb soda and apple cider vinegar and love the results (see weblink and hair shot below)
- Handing my partner his keep cup every time he walked out the door for work
- Carrying a little bag in my backpack with keep cups, cutlery and a Tupperware container for leftover food or when buying take away
- Asking for no straw when buying drinks out
- Making porridge (bulk bought) most days and avoiding Weet-Bix cereal
I am very pleased to announce that I have continued with most of these changes throughout the year. Yes, I sometimes forget to take my containers, but it’s starting to become a habit that I don’t leave home without these.
Other Tips and Tricks
Here’s what I was already doing in daily life (this may be a starting point for you):
- Shopping at bulk food outlets and bringing my own packaging. If you’re in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne there are quite a few places that you can do this
- I shop at CERES for fresh and dried goods, Friends of the Earth Food Co-op and Preston Market
- You may need to check at your local deli or butcher, etc. that they “tare” their scales so you don’t end up paying for the containers weight
- A set of re-usable and washable food sacks when purchasing your loose items
- Orange string bags are great for storing fruit in and they last for ages
- Use local hand-made organic skin care in glass jars
- Line bins with the weekly local newspaper
- Use re-usable containers and wraps for school lunches (there are so many options out there). I love the 4myearth lunch wraps and have a few I’ve been using for the last 8 years!
- As soon as I’ve emptied my re-usable shopping bags I hang them on the front door knob so I remember to take them to the car for the next shop
Where to next?
I’m planning on participating again this July and invite you to do the same. Try the “Top 4 Challenge”, commit to the full challenge or choose a few things you’d like to change and focus on those.
My challenges and ongoing issues to be solved in 2015:
- Find an alternative to Weet-Bix that my family will eat ~ for when I don’t have the time or energy to cook porridge or fry eggs
- Keep the re-usable plastic containers washed and ready to use when I do my market shop every week
- The fish shop at the market are not too keen to put my fish in my containers (will try again this July)
- Although I get my deli to put dips, olives, sliced meat etc. into my well sealed re-usable plastic container, they often put it in a surprise little plastic bag “to protect it from leaking into other shopping”. I’ll have to be very persistent and vigilant in asking them not to do this
- Find a supplier of bulk organic coconut flour
Useful links and info:
Plastic Free July Official Website – http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
CERES Outreach Plastic Free July 2014 – http://dev.sustainability.ceres.org.au/project/plastic-free-july/
See link to cover story in New Scientist Jan 2015 – http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530060.200-plastic-age-how-its-reshaping-rocks-oceans-and-life.html
Go shampoo free – http://www.nopoomethod.com/